Simon who now?
American Idol's new trio of judges, Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban, hit the TCA Press Tour in Pasadena today, and suffice to say, it seems clear from where we're sitting that Fox has struck a gold mine in Harry.
Idol might actually be saved.
While executive producers Trish Kinane and Per Blankens talked about "small changes" to the show for season 16—including an intimate, pre-audition "chamber" for contestants, and a shortened "middle period" for the show—Connick stole the spotlight with his funny, witty and endearing take on the new season, and how he fits in as a new judge. The iconic crooner is shaping up to be exactly what the show has been missing: Simon Cowell. But…dare we say it…better?
Here are six reasons Harry Connick Jr. might steal Idol's (and J.Lo's!) spotlight in season 16 as the show's biggest star…and help inspire viewers who left the show to check it out again:
1. He Is Brutally Honest. Connick says this of his judging style: "You signed up to be judged by us. I'm responding to a performance. I don't believe you have to couch your critique in some compliment. I used to watch the show and I would scream at the television, like, 'They can't sing!!' Maybe because as a kid I was berated by my professors. Sometimes it's a bit blunt and direct but it's never personal. If I could wrap all these kids up in a blanket I would. But we need to get on with this show. If they can't sing, come on, they need to go home."
2. He's Like Simon—With More Heart: "I watched the show when they were calling people names and making fun of them," Connick told E! News after his panel session with reporters. "I don't do that. It's uncomfortable…But look, Simon is a genius. I think he was unbelievable and people don't realize how hard it is to do what he did. I can't really compare myself to him. He's coming at it from a record industry point of view. I'm coming at it from a performer's point of view…But we are both honest."
3. It's All in the Details: "The key is specificity," Connick told E! News. "You can't let them go without telling them what they did. You gotta back up what you say. If they sang out of tune, you gotta tell them you sang out of tune. I have said some things that I could see could be interpreted as mean. But I think of NFL coaches or Olympic coaches, and what are we doing here? I mean, you all know what you signed up for. If it was terrible I'm not going to say I like your dress. I'm going to say this ain't no good."
4. He Is a Longtime Fan of the Show: He has watched the show since its inception and pointed out that he was there for the season-one finale when Kelly Clarkson won.
5. He Could Not Care Less About The Voice: When a reporter asked the panel of judges and producers about The Voice being "more popular," producer Kinane quickly shot back, "That's not true actually," but Connick went the sweeter route: "Look, when I went on my honeymoon with my wife, I remember looking at all the other couples around and I assumed they were on their honeymoon too, and I promise you I never once looked at my wife and said, ‘Man, I wonder how they got so happy. I wonder how we're going to stack up next to them.' I'm married to this show and I'm so happy that I don't even see another couple. This is what I see and I promise you one thing, it's a blast, it's so fun, it's the only thing I'm thinking of." Ladies and gentleman, that's how you turn a snarky question into a group swoon. A+!
6. He's Pushing to Collaborate With Jennifer and Keith: "We've talked about doing something," Connick said, when asked if the judges will be performing together. "People don't know that Jen can really sing. She sings very sweetly and softly. She's so kind of produced in her pop world that you don't really get to hear her sing like she can sing. And we all know what Keith can do. I would love to do something with the two of them."
Connick aside, Idol also seems to be keeping enough of the original format to make it the same show, but has "freshened up" every aspect of the show with minor alterations, per executive producer Trish Kinane.
Kinane tells E! News that the rumors of changes to the finale are true (as we previously reported, FOX is considering Madison Square Garden as a venue) and that they were hoping to announce specifics by end of day. Stay tuned...